How Mastermind Groups Go Bad

I hear wonderful stories from people about how their mastermind group has changed their lives.

Unfortunately, I also hear the horror stories: from mastermind groups that undermined a member’s confidence, to ones that merely wasted their time.

If you are in a mastermind group, or running a mastermind group, watch out for these tell-tale signs that things are going downhill:

Turning Into a Coffee Klatch

Has your mastermind group conversation devolved into a social chitchat fest? When one or more members start talking about irrelevant topics, everyone loses focus and the mastermind group quality and value degrades. If members wanted to have a coffee chat, they might as well just meet with a good friend during their spare time.

Getting Off Topic

It’s important to remember that members joined because they have goals and want to focus on specific challenges. If time is spent going into topics that the person in the Hot Seat isn’t interested in (while not getting the answers they are looking for), they will feel like their time and money is wasted. Listen carefully to what the person in the Hot Seat wants to focus on and keep the conversation tight and deep. There are times when the topic needs to be broadened, but make sure you do so with the consent of the person in the Hot Seat.

People Give and Don’t Get

A mastermind exchange is a give-and-take dance, with members freely sharing ideas and best practices in a two-way fashion. Members who are always giving help, and not getting help in return, lose out of the value of the group. As the Facilitator, you need to keep your fingers on the pulse of each member to makes sure they’re getting value out of the group, and to take care of any imbalances before they become a problem. Otherwise, you risk losing those valuable members.

Turns into a Complaint Fest

One of the biggest perks of joining a mastermind group is to feel positive and energized after the meetings. But what happens when the meeting turns out to be a complaining match to find out whose miseries are the greatest? At the end of the session, the members will feel drained and ill tempered. Who wants to spend an entire meeting building up a list of frustrations and finding no solutions? Your mastermind group is a safe place to vent and share problems, but the very next part of the conversation must be, “And what can you do to fix that and move forward?”

Members Don’t Participate

Members can’t expect to join a mastermind group and then show up as tourists. They have to be actively engaged in the conversations. There can’t be casual spectators siting in the sidelines of a mastermind group. If only a few members are contributing, what’s the point of the others being present? Facilitators must articulate the level of commitment and participation required in a successful mastermind group, and be vigilant that everyone is participating equally.

The Facilitator Didn’t Share His/Her Knowledge with the Group

Sometimes Facilitators forget that they’re part of the group, too, and their wisdom experiences, and best practices should be shared with the group. On one hand, mastermind groups are not classes and the Facilitator should not be the only source of answers. On the other hand, the Facilitator shouldn’t hold back on information that can be helpful to the group members. The rule of thumb for Facilitators: always be the last to speak, not the first. But speak up when you have something to share!

Facilitator Has Their Own Agenda and Isn’t Serving the Group

Having an agenda has everything to do with ego, and ego has two very specific goals in mind: being right and looking good. As a Facilitator, you need to remember that the group meeting is not a showcase for you. (That’s why you’re called the Facilitator, and not the Coach or Leader of the group.) It’s not about you and how smart you are, the topics you want to cover, or the direction you want to take the conversation. It’s about the members and how they help each other find the solutions they seek. Keep in mind that a mastermind is not a mentorship program or group consulting program, but rather a peer-to-peer learning and sharing experience. While you can share your expertise with the group, you do it after everyone has already shared, instead of dominating the conversation yourself. If you are the Facilitator, leave your ego cloak at the door, wear your humility slippers and enjoy being part of the creative (and way more productive) experience of many minds working in harmony together.

People Come to Meetings Unprepared

If members want valuable help to come their way from others, they have to explain their situation clearly and ask the right questions. It takes time and preparation to formulate them. When members show up without clear topics they want help with, it will be very difficult for the group or the Facilitator to provide adequate assistance. Improvising will lead to shallow discussions, confusing Hot Seats and poor decision-making. Proper goals won’t be set or met, and accountability goes out the window. Things won’t get done and this leads to disappointment and frustration for everybody.

The Facilitator Doesn’t Do Anything about Any of These Problems

The hardest part of being a mastermind group Facilitator is that you have to give intense attention to every detail of your group, during meetings and between meetings. Are you aware whether any of the above situations are happening in your group? Even if you’re not aware, your members are – and they’ll complain or leave if they’re unhappy. Make it a ritual to pay attention to these trouble spots, ask members how they feel about the group process, and make sure you deal with problems quickly. Don’t wait to see if they’ll go away by themselves. They never do.


Let’s create mastermind groups that flourish. You are the gardener in your mastermind group; look for and eradicate the weeds!

P.S. If you’re in a mastermind group that’s going downhill, speak to the person running it and let them know that it’s not working for you. Hopefully they’ll be willing to make some changes. (If not, maybe it’s time for you to start looking for a better mastermind group?)


What Types of Mastermind Groups Are There?

Many people form mastermind groups to help build their business. But business mastermind groups aren’t the only type of masterminding going on these days!

Mastermind groups are becoming more and more popular. Recently I did a little web research to find out what types of people are forming mastermind groups. This list might give you some creative ideas for starting a mastermind group of your own:

People who are:

  • small business owners & entrepreneurs
  • CEOs and executive-level managers
  • new managers
  • sales people
  • artists
  • authors
  • moms
  • landlords
  • real estate investors
  • singles
  • recently divorced
  • internet marketers
  • retailers
  • dentists
  • painting contractors
  • parents of teens
  • empty nesters
  • retirees and soon-to-be retirees
  • inter-departmental employees working as a team
  • musicians, artists and writers
  • consultants
  • Chamber of Commerce and professional association members

People who want success in:

  • network marketing
  • living the law of attraction
  • fitness & weight loss
  • growing a business
  • building wealth
  • creating a healthy lifestyle
  • dealing with difficult people
  • finding a new romantic partner in life
  • dealing with teenagers
  • adding more spirituality to their lives

Mastermind groups…not just for business anymore!

6 Ways to Find a Mastermind Group

You want to join a mastermind group, but don’t know where to start looking for one, right?

Mastermind groups are everywhere; you just need to know where to find them.

Be sure you know what you’re looking for in a group before trying to find one to join. For instance:

  • Do you want to meet in person? Or is meeting by phone or video chat acceptable?
  • Do you need to meet in the evening, or is a day-time meeting better?
  • What topic areas do you want the group to focus on?
  • Do you want to be held accountable for getting actions done and reporting back to the group, or do you want something more casual?
  • Do you want a group that focuses on pure brainstorming, problem-solving and decision-making, or should there be an education element to the group as well?

Here are six tips to get you started:

  1. Start a group of your own. It’s easier than you think, and you can hand-select the people you want to brainstorm with. This way you get to choose the dates, times, locations and topic areas that work best for you. You’re bound to find friends and colleagues who are searching, too.
  2. See if there are any local mastermind groups by checking You can search within a radius of your zip code to find local mastermind groups on many topics. Then contact the group organizer and find out if the group is still meeting, and if they’re taking new members.
  3. Use my Find a Mastermind Group service, which lists people who have existing mastermind groups and are looking for new members. Read the descriptions to see which group is right for you, then email the facilitator to set up time to talk on the phone about their group.
  4. Talk with colleagues. Ask your connections via email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn if they know of any existing groups looking for new members, or any new groups that are forming. Telephone colleagues and friends and let them know you’re looking. Ask coworkers. They might be in a mastermind group right now and would know if the group is a good match for you. Or through their network of friends and colleagues, they can spread the word about what you’re looking for.
  5. Check with your favorite mentors, teachers and writers. They often have mastermind groups, and they don’t always advertise them. If they don’t have groups themselves, they may know of others who do.
  6. Check with  your local professional organizations, including trade groups, chambers of commerce, religious groups, networking groups, and schools. Anywhere that groups of people regularly meet together are the most likely to have mastermind groups.

Look around and you’ll be surprised how many groups there are. Then interview the facilitator and some of the other members of the group to determine if the group is a good match for you. Ask if you can attend one meeting to get a feel for the group and how it’s run.

You’ll love being part of a mastermind group!

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